Viking Jupiter – Western Europe – Barcelona to Copenhagen – April 25–May 9, 2019
For Context -
We are in our late 60’s and this was our 3rd Viking Ocean Cruise in 12 months. We did the Caribbean in February 2019 on the Viking SEA and did the Baltics Homelands Cruise on the SKY in May 2018. We consider ourselves quite mobile and enjoy tours/activities that require lots of walking and exercise. We hope to do 5 to 10 miles walking whenever we are in ports when we take cruise vacations. We have done primarily DIY trips where I planned everything and managed traveling by train or car to different hotels or B&B’s every couple nights, combined with DIY sightseeing. As we’ve aged, this certainly takes a toll on us both in the planning and the execution – so another reason for trying out cruising again after many years.
We have been on other cruise lines, but picked Viking on recommendations from friends, who really like the format and clientele makeup. We found this to be very true: focus on history, ports, education and casual but good food. Less focus on entertainment and keeping people highly occupied all the time. Viking seemed to be different and targeting a niche market which we thought we would enjoy: no kids, no formal nights, no casinos, no Las Vegas Entertainment, no flamboyant dinners, no late night parties and more – so we thought we might meet others who had the same feelings at least.
Viking Jupiter is a fabulous ship! We’d been concerned about being on a new ship given how people have recommended waiting for Viking to work out kinks. However, the itinerary was just too good to pass up and we thought that with several months “shakeout”, Viking would correct most if not all of the major issues on the first several voyages – and we were correct.
We observed some very good updates in the Viking Jupiter from our earlier Sea & Sky cruises. – with one major exception (the new Planetarium). For the most part, Viking has this down now and does a fantastic job. We could see, however, some small kinks, which was expected as they grow and have to add and train new staff. Simple patience and pleasant discussions with newer staff went a long ways to helping them learn.
Room (see below in separate section)
TV and the Viking App:
We enjoyed the TV, not so much for the shows like BBC, Television, movies, and more, but for all the information you can see about the cruise itself. Viking did a great job of getting all the information into one place here – and accessible by an amazingly simple remote control! Love it! We would check the weather, look at the Bridge Web Cam live, view the port talks, enrichment lectures, and more (like Ted talks). We could also check our billing account live, view restaurant menus, make dinner reservations, and more!!
The app was also well designed and easy to use. Was looking at it constantly throughout the day to check on weather, the Daily Schedule, menus, making reservations, the excursions, things we had booked, future ports, and much much more. Again – kudos to Viking here!!
We enjoyed the evening shows at 9:15 in the Star Theatre. We are not as hyper critical as others and so they were all quite good in our opinion, some better than others. The only comment is that some of the shows seem to go from ship to ship (as in ABBA, the Beatles, Songs of the Decades), but there was still a good variety. Although the shows in the evening were quite popular, we never had an issue getting a seat, as long as we arrived by 9:00 or 9:05. Probably the one disappointment (versus our previous cruises) was the Cruise Director. To be fair, she had just come over to Viking from another line – but she came across as ditsy, unprofessional, unprepared, and not knowing anything (which certainly couldn’t be true or they wouldn’t have hired her). Just not our style I suppose.
Another unexpected treat was the rotation of musical entertainment around different public spaces throughout the days – we had an excellent pianist, a Classical Trio, and a Guitar player (who, sadly, had his speakers on too loud though). They would play at different locations such as Explorer’s Lounge, Wintergarden, and the Attrium – particularly at cocktail hour and after dinner.
We did not go to hear the bands in Torshavn, the ship’s night club, but people did say they enjoyed it.
History, Lecture, and Enlightenment
This is easily one of the best parts of the Viking Cruises. Each cruise we’ve had excelled here. Jupiter was outstanding! We had 4 or 5 guest lecturers and historians as well as an Astronomer. The depth and variety of these different lectures/presentations was amazing – we couldn’t attend each one in person, but they were always available on the Room TV shortly afterwards. True highlights! We thoroughly enjoyed Russell Lee, one of the lecturers, who was absolutely enthralling in his talks on Anne Frank, How Wool Changed early Europe, the Mona Lisa you didn’t know about, and the Tulips Bubble of 1600’s Holland. So interesting!!
About the only aspect we didn’t care for that much were the port talks. They had such great promise. The issue to us is that they started out great with some good knowledge on the ports, but too little time was spent on that and it seemed that nearly two thirds of the time was then focused on selling/pushing the various tours/excursions. Since by the time you see it you are already pretty much committed in or out, what was the point? I did like however, the way they used the map graphics to show where everything was. Would have rather spent time in tips and how to see the ports or attractions, what the people are like, what to watch for and watch out for, and more things like that. Improvement needed here.
Onboard the Jupiter
We spent so much time in the Explorer’s Lounge (as we had done in prior cruises). On the 7th level, it has such a fantastic view, and a very small bar as well. It is adjacent to Mamsens so you can get something to eat there and carry it to the lounge are to look forward.
The one big change we viewed as not so good: The Jupiter, as a newer ship, greatly changed the explorer’s Lounge. A Planetarium was constructed that takes over ½ of the 8th floor of the Explorer’s Lounge. This sounded good at first, but the execution is sadly lacking. You had to get tickets (at the excursion desk) to go in and they showed 3 different short films (not that good) on Astronomy and Science up on the Planetarium ceiling. A poor use of this huge dome. There are only 26 seats and you have to crane your neck to look upwards. Was not that interesting-or comfortable. So much more could have been done with this and perhaps Viking will figure it out and/or remove the Planetarium on future ships. Another fallout was that it made the Explorer’s Lounge much more crowded all the time, as most people had to jam into the 7th floor area. Not a good tradeoff in our opinion. I felt they could have used the Astronomer instead to give talks/discussions on the stars above.
Again, loved the walking deck on level 2 – we used it most days we could for exercise. Only issue was there were plenty of signs telling everyone to walk clockwise, yet it seemed half the people ignored that, which caused some confusion. A nice addition from the earlier ships were additional tables and chairs on this deck at the fantail so you could watch the wake as we sailed. Amazingly, it was never busy as very few seemed interested in just taking it all in as we traveled on the seas. For us it was a perfect place to relax.
The spa was another treat onboard. Only services like massages cost anything – the use of the spa area is free/included. Loved the “resistance” pool and hot tub. You can visit the snow room and then the dry sauna room. Even take a cold water dunking with a bucket! (The hot and cold Nordic routine!) But we most enjoyed lying on the heated “lounge” pads.
If you wanted private space to sit and read, there were so many good nooks and crannies to curl up in! A treat not to be missed was the Viking Heritage “room” area on the 2nd level – with lots of interesting material (like a museum) on the Vikings.
The wifi was excellent on the ship. A new policy that limits rooms to 2 active users at a time really has helped and certainly was not the inconvenience that many had thought would happen.
Food and Restaurants:
World Café: We did quite a bit of our eating here. It just fit out style so well. We liked the nice, quiet and relaxing atmosphere and ambience. There were never any lines, there were such great waiters to attend to you, and we never felt rushed. Plus the views on the 7th deck from there were the best! The food selection was great in our opinion and you could see what you were getting ahead of time so less wasted food. Absolutely enjoyed the sushi every evening – an outstanding sushi chef! You could also get some food made to order (such as steaks and other pasta, grilled shrimp, and more). Overall we thought the quality and variety of the food here was way better than we expected (and had been led to believe by many of the other reviewers who did not care for it).
We liked that we could always find a table and usually always one with a nice view. We sort of got to “know” the World Café “regulars”!! We were always promptly served with drinks (wine in this case) from such a friendly staff. Since there was never any feeling of hurry or rush, we would go up and create an appetizer plate, relax, have a glass of wine, rehash the day and watch the view, and then meander back to get perhaps some hot plates…. Eventually the evening always led to: gelato! A real treat.
Loved the new cooking station back by the Aquavit Terrace where you could order omelettes in the morning, pastas and other items in the lunch time, and a noodle bar in the evening. Not only did it improve the flow, but allow us to engage with the cooks! We enjoyed the Aquavit Terrace itself for sitting and having a drink or glass of wine before dinner – what a view! The tables surrounding it and extending out onto the fantail were perfect for enjoying outdoor dining when the weather was good.
Chef’s Table: Now this was definitely something we could not experience at home! Our favorite place! So unique! We wound up going 4 times as they have rotating menus every several days and we wanted to experience them all. For us the atmosphere was perfect – a nice, relaxing, quieter environment, where the waiters take you through a multi-course special meal paired with various wines. Not only educational but excellent food. You actually had some time to converse with the staff! Despite comments by others, we felt we got plenty of food (and wine) and if for some reason you were still hungry you could always go to the World Café for more food.
The Restaurant: We did not attend the main dining room this cruise although we went on our previous ones. As stated before, each cruise had a personality. On the Jupiter, for some reason, this was the most popular place and always had long lines to wait to get in. (It was wide open on our previous cruises). We also heard reports that it took a long time to get waited and served here.
Mamsens: This small place near the Explorer’s Lounge has some interesting items. We had oatmeal and toast for breakfast once, had the many different open faced sandwiches for lunch (shrimp, roast beef, salmon), and then had their cakes in the afternoon quite often! Those were to die for, especially the almond one. The Viking CEO’s mother’s special recipe we heard.
The Pool Grill: Located out by the pool, they served grilled food to order on a limited menu. The hamburgers were some of the best we have ever had. Our tried and true order, however, was the seared ahi tuna, cooked perfectly at medium rare for us! That, combined with the wonderful salads they have, made for a perfect lunch while sitting outside by the pool. On the Jupiter there are quite a larger number of tables and chairs to eat outside, compared with the earlier ships.
A real treat was when the staff used the Pool Area to put on specialty meals – such as Italian night, or Seafood Grill, and in one instance on a sea day, a huge “brunch” was held with some amazing dishes and treats to choose from. My observation is that Viking is getting more creative in the presentation of various meals.
Wintergarden: We had tea here just once, as it was absolutely packed every day for some reason. Wonderful scones and small sandwiches, and the choices of tea were amazing. However, for us, the cacohony and din in that room was too much to bear – couldn’t hear anyone talk!! Not a very relaxing atmosphere to have high tea!!
Manfredi’s: We’d been to this place on the other cruises and went just once on the Jupiter. We actually cancelled our 2nd reservation. To us, this place was not special at all, although the food was acceptable. The environment was not our style – seemed more raucous, loud, boisterous like a large bistro with too many large parties that have had too much to drink. For us not that comfortable a place to eat. Also, it seemed short staffed and so we had to constantly wait for everything – and it took well over 2 ½ hours to get through the meal. The portions were so embarrassingly large and it seemed like such a waste of food – but perhaps they were targeting a certain audience who wants that size. However, it was indeed quite popular – especially with large groups. Yet it didn’t seem any different than so many restaurants in the USA back home – nothing special. But maybe familiarity to home is what people wanted.
We thought the staff and crew were again absolutely wonderful and beyond expectations each cruise. Not only was every single person helpful and professional, they managed to be friendly and engaging without going overboard. We used the excursion desk and customer service locations on the 1st level quite a bit and found them all quite helpful at getting answers to any questions we had. We enjoyed that even if they didn’t have the answer they were able to find someone who did. We did have some small issues during the cruise, but we also were able to get them addressed in a timely fashion.
We enjoyed some of our discussions with the restaurant staff as well, and sort of got to know them, and vice versa. We liked that they were attentive (and noticing), but not overbearing or pushy, like some places.
Our captain and the other officers were outstanding. They exuded a quiet confidence and trust. Much of this had to do with their communication to the passengers about things that were happening or going to happen – such as the weather precautions, changing of ports, or arrival/departure times, and what to expect. We never felt in the dark and very much appreciated the good communication.
Barcelona: we arrived a few days early. I would very much recommend “Barcelona Day Tours”. We took a private tour to Montserrat that also included Barcelona and Park Guell. Well worth it. The next day we did a Free Walking Tour of Barcelona – again quite outstanding! Good thing we did since the Jupiter wound up having to change ports the evening that we boarded (we learned this about 2 weeks before sailing). At first we were disappointed, but the added port (Tarragona) was well worth it.
Tarragona: This lesser known port about 30-40 miles south of Barcelona was a real hit! We walked all around town and the ship provided free shuttle buses to and from the port. Famous for its Roman Ruins – plus it was quite uncrowded. An unexpected treat. Will be interesting to see if this becomes the norm with Barcelona forcing ships to leave early.
Cartagena: One of the more disappointing tours. We did the included tour. It is luck of the draw on who you get for a guide, as we spoke to friends who were on other buses who had fantastic tours! Very inconsistent. Our guide had a difficult time with English and didn’t go much beyond what was necessary. A highlight though was the visit to the Roman Amphitheatre and Museum. Just wish we had more time there. We enjoyed then wandering around the city streets on our own, finding a nice shop to get some Spanish wine to bring onboard. The Jupiter docked right in town -easy walking distance.
Malaga (Granada): We were unable to get the optional excursion to the Alhambra, even with a DV2 room, as it instantly sold out. Apparently the Alhambra only makes a limited amount of tickets available per day. We tried private tours but they were mostly sold out and one wanted over $500 pp. Sort of a blessing in disguise, as we had 2 outstanding tours in Malaga. We took the optional Nerja Caves tour in the morning. What a surprise – an exceptional trip to visit the Caves underground – very unique. Note: no one with mobility issues should do this. After quite an amazing walk down through the caves, we spent time in the city of Nerja – what a wonderful place on the Mediterranean! Would highly recommend this tour. In the afternoon we did the included tour, which was surprisingly good and well worthwhile-another good guide. Saw quite a bit of Malaga – first via a short drive around town, and then a good amount of walking all throughout the city. Again, the new terminal port is located right near town so it was easy to walk all around everywhere. Although disappointed in not going to the Alhambra, we were quite delighted with how our day turned out.
Porto: We took the included tour of the city – very good guide. It is definitely a very gritty city but seemed quite real with very interesting people. The tour gave us a chance to do a lot of walking throughout the city, seeing some amazing sights, finishing down by the Douro River, where we had some free time to walk on our own. Just wish we had more time in Porto. It really grew on us! We did see the Viking River Boat on the Douro River – perhaps that might be in our future.
Falmouth (Cornwall): The weather was not so good, so we cancelled our St Michaels Mount Optional tour and did the included Cornwall drive tour instead. Turned out to be a good decision. We had an outstanding guide who told us all so many great stories about Cornwall as we meandered through the countryside. One of the real highlights was stopping at the parking lot next to the ocean and having time to walk out to the causeway that goes to St Michaels Mount – that was an experience in itself! We were back on the ship for lunch and then spent the afternoon walking all around Falmouth. The ship docks right in the harbor – easy walking distance to town. We must have done perhaps 5-7 miles and it was just a wonderful, sometimes, gritty fishing village to wander around. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Portsmouth: We were fortunate to have some wonderfully clear sunny weather entering into Portsmouth harbor, although quite cold in the low 40’s (F). Glad we got up to see us come into Portsmouth – a beautiful sight to behold! You could see the famous Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower for miles! We had been before to most of the places on the optional tours (Stonehenge, Salisbury, London, Winchester) and so decided to just take the included tour. We heard from those who went to Stonehenge that they had a fabulous time. Our tour was also quite good as we had an outstanding guide (again). We got to see all around Portsmouth area, stopping at several places and getting a real feel for the area. After lunch we decided to explore on our own. The port has a free shuttle to the museums and ships. The terminal area is quite a bit under security and it takes a decent time to get in and out and to the ship. However, we took the bus down to the D-Day museum, which I wanted to see particularly given that the 75th anniversary celebrations were going to occur in a few weeks. This museum did not disappoint. Absolutely amazing place. We wound up spending much more time here than intended and didn’t get to go to the ships, but it was well worth it. We met at the museum a 95 year old British vet of D-Day and spoke with him for an hour. A true highlight and memory.
LeHavre, France: It was raining when we arrived. We had booked 2 optional tours, scheduled to take up the whole day – Honfleur in the morning and Rouen in the afternoon/evening. However, a day or two earlier, we were notified that the Yellow Vests were planning a large demonstration later in the day in Rouen, and the French authorities recommended that tour groups leave before that, just to be safe. So we had to choose between Rouen and Honfleur and chose Rouen. I’m sure Honfleur was great, but our Rouen optional tour was exceptional. We had an excellent guide who made the ride to Rouen very interesting by telling us the history. This tour was an all walking tour – and quite a distance – not recommended for anyone with mobility issues. But that is why we liked it. We must have walked around nearly all of old Rouen over cobblestone streets, in alleys, and into all kinds of cathedrals and historic sites. I would very much recommend this tour. Despite the on and off rain, we loved Rouen and will have to come back.
Bruges Thank goodness we had already visited Bruges for 3 days a few years ago. Unfortunately our luck ran out. We had purchased the optional Bruges Walking Tour and this was likely the worst excursion we have ever had on a Viking Cruise. The city was again magnificent – albeit very cold, windy, but sunny. Our guide was simply – incompetent. I knew we were in trouble when he was reading and searching from his many pages of notes. He really didn’t convey much of anything. We would have been better to go into town on our own again. We spoke to others on the tour who had different buses and guides – they had such a good time – so again, luck of the draw. I sort of expect that with included tours, but was quite disappointed with having to pay $59 each for this one – as were others on our bus. Win some lose some though. Go with the flow.
Amsterdam: After Bruges, the gods must have taken pity on us. We didn’t have the best weather, but that’s about the only negative on our visit to this wonderful city. We’d been here many times before and it is likely our favorite European city. We had thought of just exploring it ourselves and/or doing an optional tour outside town, but the weather was bad. We decided to take the included Canal Cruise – and we were certainly glad we did. We had probably the best guide of our whole trip. He was from Amsterdam and made cruise so interesting and entertaining. Such wonderful stories and delivered with humor and audience interaction. We were all sad when the 2 hour ride ended. After lunch on the ship, we head back out on our own and walked 8-10 miles all around Amsterdam, revisiting all of our favorite places. The ship docked so close (10 minute walk) to Amsterdam Centraal Train Station! The vibe of Amsterdam, with its wonderful people, bikes traveling everywhere, the amazing shops, cheese tastings, and historical sights – was again a highlight for us. We did hear that Amsterdam is seriously considering curbing tourism as it has gotten to popular a place to visit. We’ll have to see how that all transpires. (Venice and Bruges are also considering the same thing)
Kiel Canal: And now for the true unexpected highlight of the cruise. And we never left the ship. Sailing through the famous Kiel Canal in northern Germany was amazing. The shores are just so close and people on the banks would wave and shout to us as we glided, seemingly effortlessly, past small towns & container ships, bridges, roads, countryside, and more. The weather turned nice and we got to see the late sunset off the canal at nearly 10 PM, watching small pairs of swans gliding by…. Simply breathtaking!
Copenhagen: We’d been here before with the Viking Sky and had taken the Included walking tour. It had been quite good and gave us lots of exercise last year – but we wanted to do something different this time. Given that we planned to spend a couple more nights here after leaving the ship, we decided to venture out. As such, we did not take any Viking tours in Copenhagen, although if we had, we would have done the Rothskilde Cathdral and Viking Ship tour. We wound up taking the free Viking shuttle bus from Langelinie pier (the close pier near the Mermaid) into town, near Nyhavn Harbor. Spent the afternoon at Tivoli Gardens-an easy walk. Then took one of the Canal Cruises – the weather turned cold windy and bitter but it was still a fascinating cruise. I believe Viking optional tours has it – and it would be well worth it to be sure. That evening (our last on the ship), the Copenhagen Harbor made the Jupiter change ports to the farther out Oceankaj pier. This was because the closer pier is normally used only for ships that do not disembark/embark or stay the night. So another couple mile quick cruise. On disembarking at the end of the cruise the next day, we then took the bus from Oceankaj into town and to our hotel. Must say that Viking handled the disembarkation quite smoothly and efficiently.
Post Cruise: I highly recommend that if you have not seen Copenhagen, that you stay longer. We used our extra days to 1) take some free city walking tours and walking around our own on day 1 and 2) Take an all-day sightseeing tour outside Copenhagen to see Rothskilde Cathedral, the Viking Ship Museum, Fredericksborg Castle, and Kronberg Castle. Hamlet Tours: one of the better private tours we’ve ever done. There were several other passengers from the Jupiter on this small private van tour.
In summary – a wonderful time, not without some hiccups, but upon reflection, all better than expected. As stated earlier, each cruise we’ve been on has had a very different feel and personality, based on the passengers who happened to be on board, the ports, and the weather. The real consistency has been the Viking crews and service – outstanding! We will be booking future cruises on Viking. Read Less